I’m in the Hay Barn life drawing at least 10 times a year and have possibly done 50 or more of these in the last six years, yet I also pack to go with trepidation, as if I will be doing a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon and will forget how to keep my balance.
With the restaurant closed we take lunch. As usual I scrape some of last night’s lunch into a tupperware box, add some rice, take some soya milk, decaf: coffee and water.
Materials include: wallpaper backing, A3 sketch pad and a small sketch pad. I also took watercolour pencils, pastels, a large variety of pencils and charcoal. The rest I leave to the organiser Silvea Macrea-Brown: easel, drawing board and clips … and providing a model.
Liz is back
Liz inspired me last summer to move my art into the garden and start producing additional works based on the sketches made during these life drawing sessions. I took a long a display book containing some of my early efforts a printmaking too – featuring her.
There’s a pattern to the session. Arrivals between 9:50 and 10:05am for a 10.00am start. Chairs into a semi-circle, set up, some introductions and small talk: hello Susie, Ken, Charles, Lucinda, Laura etc: hello Silvia. Good to see you again Liz.
I tape three layers of wallpaper backing paper to a drawing board; this is how I start. three, four or five fast sketches on the single sheet just to ‘get my hand it’ – something might come out of it, something bold with a sense of movement and mood, or not.
Just relax. I tell myself. Let go. Follow the advice. Be bold, be fast, use my left hand.
Not wax crayons today, but something more sophisticated: pastels. I soon learn that they don’t have the rigidity of a child’s wax crayon. I break most of the box and get as much pastel onto me as I do the paper. That, and as I get through the sheets I smudge a lot.
I think I’ll go back to wax crayon! I can be more brutal with the movement. And this two tone thing might work better. I can’t see if I got much from this exercise other than warming up my hand/shoulder and brain. I like some of the colour combinations though.
These poses were around 3 minutes each.
For a short spell I used a fancy Japanese biro I got from Lawrences – it behaves more like the Lamy fountain pen I’ve used before. Saves on paper; I get a few drawings per page.
And as I show above, I try drawing with my left hand for a few minutes. Had I stuck with this a little longer it is surprising how quickly the non-dominant hand can pick up where the dominant hand left off. There are advantages to this – it frees up the mind, opens up the subconscious, offers you the unexpected.
I then revert to the larger sheets, each drawing complete in around 2 minutes. My aim is to create something simple and expressive that I can use in larger format, as a print. maybe a mural on a wall. I like to think big. One drawing per page, using, for want of a change, watercolour pencils, sometimes as a pair, rather than sketching with a soft HB or large pieces of charcoal.
The longer poses rarely work for me. I become too fiddly and exact. Perhaps I should be drawing large. I’m not good at slowing it down, even though my taught methodology was the three hour pose with a great deal of measuring and careful, exact placing of the image on the page. Not today, not today. Maybe instead of one 35 pose I should break it into 10 poese, or certainly 6 or 7.
Lunch was before or after these. We take over a large, Arthurian round table in the restaurant for an hour. I spent a good deal of time at talking to Liz about her music, planned travels to the Congo and ways to get more attention for her singing and songwriting.
Afterwards, it is back to the drawing-board – literally.
I took along my Liz Portfolio of chine collée prints I have made over the last two weeks. Silvea liked these and asked for photos. Liz liked them too so I let her pick on. She went for something simple – the blue block of colour over her torso in mid ‘qi-dong’.